A phenomenon that has travelled far from its Japanese homeland, Chibi (ちび or チビ) is slang for ‘short’ and is applied to various pop culture genres today. Chief amongst those are the small, chubby caricatures with their tiny bodies and over-sized heads – also called super-deformed (SD). A popular style in anime and manga, and also with the Funko figures that are seemingly everywhere these days, we’re actually surprised the concept has taken this long to hit the numismatic world.
If anyone was going to do it, it would be pop-culture innovators the New Zealand Mint, who have an extensive catalogue of media franchises under their wing. These are perfect subjects for the Chibi treatment, and the first to get reimagined was cult superhero, Batman. Rather than go with the dour character from the excellent Nolan movies, the mint sensibly took a more comic-orientated approach, with some similarities to the style popularised in the camp Sixties TV series. The follow-up coins are equally whimsical and manage to be both an extreme caricature, and easily recognisable.
This was the first of the DC Comics Chibi Collection, which was soon joined by a Harry Potter series, and then a Star Wars one. In February 2021, Lord of the Rings appeared, followed by even more to the stage we’re at 20+ subsets. Each coin is numbered as part of its own collection, rather than as a unified Chibi series as a whole. Given the accelerated release schedule, that’s probably a wise decision. Amazingly, given the near $100 USD price tag per coin, the mint is issuing four per month.
In September 2022, the first two-ounce ‘Mega Chibi’ appeared, with a ‘The Batman’ movie coin. We’re expecting more. A disappointing direction for the series, as we’d have thought that, given the nature of Chibi, a smaller sized range, perhaps half, or even quarter-ounce in weight, would’ve been the way to entice new and/or younger collectors. January 2023 saw not only the addition of the giant Marvel franchise to Chibi, but also a randomly placed (10%) fully gilded coin.